Former Vice President Mike Pence slammed former President Donald Trump on Saturday for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol, widening the schism between the two men as they prepare to compete for the Republican nomination in next year’s election.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said at the annual Gridiron Dinner, which is attended by politicians and journalists. “I had no right to annul the election. And his reckless words put my family and everyone else at the Capitol that day in danger, and I am confident that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Pence’s comments were the most vehement condemnation yet from the once-loyal lieutenant who has often avoided confronting his former boss. Trump’s candidacy has already been declared. Pence has not, but he has been preparing to run.
Trump put pressure on Pence to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory in the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, as he presided over the ceremonial certification of the results. Pence refused, and when rioters stormed the Capitol, some chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”
The House committee that investigated the attack said in its final report that “the President of the United States had riled up a mob that hunted his own Vice President.”
Pence’s remarks cemented his position in the Republican Party’s broader debate over how to interpret the attack. For example, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently provided Tucker Carlson with an archive of security camera footage from January 6, which the Fox News host has used to downplay the day’s events and promote conspiracy theories.
“Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace,” Pence said in his Gridiron Dinner remarks. “And it mocks decency to portray it any other way.”
Trump, meanwhile, has continued to spread lies about his election loss. He’s even spoken in support of the rioters and said he would consider pardoning them if he was reelected.
Gridiron Dinner speeches are typically lighthearted affairs in which politicians poke fun at one another, and Pence did so as well.
He joked that Trump’s ego was so fragile, he wanted his vice president to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” — one of the lines is “did you ever know that you’re my hero?” — during their weekly lunches.
He went after Trump again over classified documents.
“I read that some of those classified documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president’s Bible,” Pence said. “Which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there.”
Even before the dinner was over, Pence was under fire for making jokes about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the country’s first openly gay Cabinet member.
Pence mentioned that, despite travel problems that were plaguing Americans, Buttigieg took “maternity leave” after he and his husband adopted newborn twins.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets post-partum depression,” Pence said. _
Megerian contributed reporting from Wilmington, Delaware.